The Jaguars are in a position to compete for the final wild-card spot in the AFC playoffs. That may come as a surprise, but with four wins and five losses, the Jaguars are only one game back for the sixth and final spot in the postseason. And the Jaguars play three of the four teams currently ahead of them in the race for six. This team controls it's own destiny, to be sure.
But for a team that has struggled in games against competent opponents, winning five or six of their next seven games will be no easy task.
To compete for the playoffs, the Jaguars will need a lot of things to go right down the stretch. Here are the five keys to a Jaguars' playoff run.
A fast start for Nick Foles
Nick Foles returns to action after missing over two months of game time. The Jaguars' $88 million quarterback is in a familiar position: needing to win games to guide a team to the playoffs. Foles has been practicing for several weeks, but there is no way to replicate in-game reps. For the Jaguars to have any chance at the playoffs, they need to win their next two games, both of which are divisional road games. This Sunday, the Jaguars take on the Colts in Indy and then travel to Nashville to play the Titans. Both of those defenses boast talent. But Nick Foles will need to start fast, keep the offense moving, and score in the red zone.
Speaking of the red zone . . .
The Jaguars MUST do a better job of scoring in the red zone. Playcalling and execution will be key. Leonard Fournette has struggled inside the 20-yard line this season, and so have the Jaguars as a whole. The team is 30th in the NFL in red zone scoring percentage. The hope here is that with Nick Foles back on the field, the Jaguars can run the offense that they originally planned on heading into the season. Offensive coordinator John DeFilippo and Nick Foles have an excellent working relationship, which could lead to better results in the red zone down the stretch.
Tight end production
Since James O'Shaughnessy's untimely knee injury that placed him on IR, the Jaguars haven't been able to get much out of their tight end group. The rookie third-round pick, Josh Oliver, is back on the field after missing the first six games of the season. But the Jaguars have been slowly integrating him into the offense, and at this point, he doesn't look like he's ready to be a factor. He's caught just two passes for 10 yards in three games. Perhaps getting Nick Foles back on the field will help Josh Oliver and the rest of the Jaguars' young tight ends. If they can squeeze any productivity out of that group, it'll be a massive win for the Jaguars' offense.
The Jaguars are mostly healthy heading into week 11. Every player currently on the roster is healthy, including Jake Ryan, a reliable linebacker the Jaguars' signed from the Packers this offseason. Of course, Marcell Dareus, James O'Shaughnessy, and Marqise Lee are on IR, but outside of that, the Jaguars are well positioned on the injury front. Health, particularly at wide receiver, will be key moving forward. Nick Foles needs to have reliable weapons in order for this offense to reach its peak.
Yes, Sacksonville appears to be back this year. The Jaguars have been getting plenty of pressure on quarterbacks in recent weeks. Unfortunately, in their last game, getting pressure wasn't enough. Despite the Jaguars' best efforts rushing Deshaun Watson, there was no stopping him. It didn't matter if he was falling to the ground or getting mauled by Jaguars' defenders, Deshaun Watson was able to get passes off and deliver the ball with innate accuracy. Luckily for the Jaguars, they won't be facing players of the caliber of Deshaun Watson for the rest of the season. Getting pressure as they did in London, will yield better results down the stretch.
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